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4 Days in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Adventures & Eats

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

Our trip to Mexico is yet again to a different destination. We've seen so many friends visit Puerto Vallarta over the years, and now it was time for us to visit. Despite Puerto Vallarta being more of a resort town, we opted to make our trip and experience more "local." That means, staying in town in a place without all the frills, walking to and from places, and exploring some hidden gems (food and activity wise). 

Our Itinerary

Day 1

- Hotel check in:  Hotel Rosita
Hotel Rosita is an old-school style, unassuming hotel in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. Depending on the room you book, some may overlook the ocean and beach. The room we had faced the city streets, which was fine since we were out most of the day. The hotel had your basic set up and wasn't anything fancy, but we were safe and had access to pretty much everything. The air conditioning worked really well, which was a plus. 

TIP:  This hotel does not provide hair dryers for guests. You would need to bring own hair dryer. 

- Walk along boardwalk to Muelle de Playa Los Muertos (Los Muertos Pier)
Given that my husband and I were not visiting during peak season, we were able to walk along the boardwalk to Los Muertos Pier without too many photobombers. We enjoyed looking at and reading about the various metal statues we passed by. We also enjoyed taking a picture with the "Puerto Vallarta" sign without anyone there. The walk was nice and pleasant. We felt we were able to take our time and enjoy without the hustle and bustle of the peak season crowd. 

As my husband and I transitioned from walking along the ocean to more in-town, we passed by this bakery. What caught our attention and interest was that there were locals shopping here, so we decided to give this place a try. We purchased their flan napolitano, conchas, and a custard filled bread (forgot the name of it). We really liked and recommend the flan napolitano and the conchas. We really couldn't find anywhere else to just buy plain old flan itself in town. We didn't really like the custard filled bread because the custard, although creamy looking, tasted more like fake vanilla flavor.

Mariscos Cisneros was our first seafood restaurant stop. We walked over to the restaurant, and the restaurant was pretty full. As we stood aside to decide on what we wanted to order, a few large groups had just finished their meals and left. Given that we were still traveling COVID-consciously, we got our food to-go. We ordered the fish ceviche, and shrimp and octopus tostadas. The food was well-packaged and survived our trip back to our hotel. The seafood was fresh and refreshing! This restaurant was definitely a hidden gem! 

Day 2

Mirador el Cerro de la Cruz is a local trail that boasts a beautiful view of the city. The hike itself is not for the faint of heart nor those scared of heights. Our journey began walking from our hotel through the neighborhood following painted wooden signs to find our way. We were lucky to have ran into other hikers who were heading downhill. They helped confirm we were going the correct way. As we got closer, we saw other locals also completing the hike. When we reached the base of the hill, there were several steep stairs to climb. The stairs curved at corners, and there was a handrail for most of the stairs. There was a railing where an old funicular used to run. Going up the stairs was a process in itself. Going down the stairs required not looking forward at the view. Once you make it up the stairs, there is quite a treat awaiting -- areas to sit and enjoy the 360 degree view of the town and ocean. There is also another set of stairs for an even more unobstructed view of the town and ocean. 

After our long strenuous hike up and down, we were ready to feast! We were lucky that a large group had left just before we arrived. Since it wasn't too crowded and we were famished, we dined in. We ordered their shrimp ceviche, fish tacos, and grilled octopus dish. All of their dishes were delicious and fresh! Our table filled up with food as the orders came out one by one, along with refills of bread and tostadas. 

On our way back to the hotel, we found Nieves Oaxaqueñas and decided to give them a try since they had so many interesting flavors. They were mostly sold out on more "exotic" flavors, since it was already early afternoon. We decided to try their leches quemada, prickly pear, and cherimoya ice cream flavors. Each of the ice creams were good on their own. We had wished we had gone with another fruit flavor instead of the leches quemada because the flavor was much richer, compared to the fruity prickly pear and cherimoya. We found it interesting that each of the ice cream's texture was a bit different. The prickly pear and cherimoya were more sorbet-like, and the leches quemada was more creamy (like most typical ice creams). 

- Walk around Gringo Gulch
Our walking adventure didn't stop just quite yet. This time, we decided to explore the Gringo Gulch, which is an area where many foreigners have purchased homes (whether those be permanently, for retirement, or for vacation). The Gringo Gulch area also had a park, which was mostly under construction when we visited. After we did our short walk through the park, we decided to visit the other side of the gulch. 

On our walk around the other side of town, we passed by two tortillerias. This one in particular had locals ordering fresh corn tortillas by the bunch to-go. Since there were many people coming and going, we decided to get a small stack of tortillas to enjoy. The tortillas were precisely measured by the machine, pressed, and cooked. The counter person was kind, and seeing that my husband and I were foreigners, gave us each a tortilla to try. As much as I am a flour tortilla fan, the warm, fresh, melt-in-your-mouth corn tortilla immediately made me change my opinion about corn tortillas. We purchased a small stack to snack on. 

With all of our walking around, we needed to replenish with some fresh tacos. Conveniently, Garlapago Tacolini was right across the street from the tortilleria and also had all seats of the taco truck occupied by locals. Since quite a few of our first choices were out of stock, we ordered a total of 7 random tacos (we basically let the cook decide, but made sure that there were no duplicates). We, unfortunately, didn't know what tacos we tried, but we can definitely say we were impressed by each one and would love to visit again (hopefully our first picks will be in stock)!

We decided to treat ourselves with some more ice cream. We were excited to find a nearby paleteria. We tried their guava and watermelon paletas, and lima agua fresca. We then walked to the boardwalk area to enjoy our treats! The paletas were delicious and had chunks of fresh fruit. The agua fresca was a refreshing lime flavor and wasn't overly sweet. Both were a great treat for the hot weather! 

- Watching the sunset and catching Danza de los Voladores
After finishing our treats, we were heading back to our hotel when we noticed 5-6 costumed people. My husband and I were wondering what was going on. We watched as each one by one climbed up a rather tall pole and anchored themselves by rope to the ring on top. A flute player sat in the middle of the circle. As the music began, those anchored along side launched themselves off the ring and spun in a circle, each full 360 turn increasing the length of their rope and allowing them to eventually touch the ground. It was an interesting sight to see, and we were lucky to have caught the show (even though it was an unplanned part of our trip). 

Day 3

- Bus ride to Boca de Tomatlan
My husband and I wanted to make our way to visit the town of Yelapa. After reading stories of people jumping into boats at the Los Muertos Pier and the limited schedule the boat ran, we decided to give the bus ride a try to a different port town -- Boca de Tomatlan. The bus fare to Boca de Tomatlan was affordable, and it did get pretty packed. We lined up with other locals waiting to board the bus after confirming that it was the correct line. The entirety of the ride was bumpy and curvy. Seats were mostly taken by the time we boarded and were taken up quickly by other standers. We decided to just stand the whole way. The bus ride back was from the same stop we were dropped off at, which was convenient. 

It was about lunch time after walking around Boca de Tomatlan. We were amazed and interested in trying the grilled fish after watching fresh fish loaded on skewers and being grilled. We asked the owner what kind of fish was being served, and the owner replied mojarra embarazada. The fish was delicious and fresh! The seasoning of the fish was perfect and made the fish flavorful without being too salty. It paired well with the side of salad (we decided to skip on the rice so we could save room for other good food). 

- Water Taxi to Yelapa 
There were several people selling tour packages nearby. We decided to speak with one vendor regarding the water taxi. There is the option to have your own private boat or to do a shared boat with others. Of course, the shared boat would make several other stops to let passengers off en route to Yelapa. We decided to do what the locals do and go with the shared boat. 

When it was time to board, my husband and I walked down the pier down some makeshift steps of sandbags. Then, we went down a ladder on a side of the pier onto the boat. Once on the boat, we climbed over row after row until we were pretty much near the back. The boat driver tried to have people organized by stops -- those with an earlier stop to be at the front part of the boat, those with the last stop of Yelapa to be towards the back. The boat ride was bumpy and noisy. It was a fun experience and interesting to see so many people board with us. The only safety concern we had was that no one wore a life jacket. I suppose it makes more space without those bulky vests, but questionable in case of an accident. 

We spent a good part of the day walking through the small fishing town of Yelapa. Since we went on a Sunday, we were slightly disappointed to find that most places were closed, but happy to find that there wasn't much of a crowd. We did the short waterfall hike (yes, there is a long one) and found our way by following the signs posted around town. 

After our bus ride back into town, our next stop was to look for dinner. We decided to go "large" and ordered large adobo, adobada, tripa, and al pastor tacos. All of the seats at this little street cart were all filled. Even the waiting area of seats had a few people waiting on their to-go order. We decided to get our order to-go as well. All of the tacos were delicious and flavorful! My husband and I had fun trying to identify/figure out which taco was which, since they weren't labeled. Our only regret was not trying some of the other taco options they had available. 

As we walked down the main street of shops in Puerto Vallarta, we passed by a boutique looking ice cream shop. The unique, eco-friendly thing about this place was that they used the shells/leaves/skin of the fruit as a bowl. I know, it's nothing too exciting. My husband and I gave their ice cream a try. After all, it's yet another new place, right? We tried the coconut and elote ice creams. We were impressed with the ice creams because they had small, shredded bits of the actual fruit/vegetable in the entire ice cream. If you can only choose one ice cream to have from here, we recommend the elote one!

Day 4 

- Breakfast at Hotel Rosita
We decided to make this our chill/eats day, since it was our last day before leaving. Since we didn't have a breakfast/brunch place planned out, we decided to give our hotel breakfast place a try. The hotel breakfast was pretty basic and had all your usual findings. We each had their ranchers eggs with chilaquiles and a green juice. 

- Walk along the beach and in town
Just like the first day of our trip, we did another walk along the boardwalk. This time, we focused more on going the opposite way. 

We couldn't go by on our last full day without another stop for sweets, so we stopped by our top sweets shop Nieves Oaxaqueñas again. This time, we tried their avocado, passion fruit, and mamey ice cream flavors. We learned our lesson from last time because, this time, all three flavors meshed well together. 

Our dinner stop led us to Mariscos la tía Ñaña. There were not too many people, since we had a relatively early dinner. We decided to dine in and ordered their aguachiles de camarón, cazuela especial "La Tía," and los guisados pulpo. All of their dishes were prepared to order, so took some time despite there only being us and one other table. Our favorite dish was the aguachile and the cazuela. What impressed us about the aquachile is the number of large, plump shrimp loaded with avocados on the dish. The shrimp were fresh and not fishy at all! The other table saw our order and even ordered one themselves. The cazuela was hot (temperature wise) and was hearty. The guisados pulpo was also delicious, but wouldn't be our top contender if we went back again with only limited stomach space. 

The one dessert that was on our radar the entire trip was churros. After researching online, we read about Julio's Churro stand and made our way there. We passed the intersection several times in search, but we were too early. I'm glad we did a final take, because we ended up finding the stand!

The churro stand is a husband and wife team, and they make their churros the traditional way. The husband is in charge of squeezing the dough into hot oil, where the churro is fried, then making sure the churro cooks evenly. The wife takes care of cutting up the churro (it is made in a large circular spiral), dipped in cinnamon sugar, then packaged. We each purchased a bag with 10 pieces per bag. It was quite a bit of churro, but when else would we be able to enjoy fresh churros? 

TIP: Find Julio's Churro stand on the corner of Peru and Uruguay. The stand opens around 6pm local time (more or less).

Day 5

Our very last meal while in Puerto Vallarta was brunch at Tacon de Marlin, located conveniently across the street from the airport. My husband has their smoked marlin burrito, and I had their shrimp burrito. Their shrimp was succulent, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of shrimp in the burrito; they definitely didn't skimp. My husband was impressed by their smoked marlin. It's definitely something I want to try when we return again. 


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Our trip to Puerto Vallarta was short, but it was a nice break from the usual work-life routine and another place we can say we visited. Although our trip was rather short, we felt that the timeframe was "just right" for the sights and eats we explored and tried.

What other sights/eats do you recommend if we visit Puerto Vallarta again?

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